Where's that panic button? Oh wait, it looks like I'll have to stand with the other Colorado Rapids fans to have a crack at it.
Our Colorado Rapids lost to the struggling New England Revolution 2-0 at Gillette Stadium. This seemed to add more fuel to the current dumpster fire our lads are experiencing. The Rapids have lost two straight, and have only two points in the last four games. Troubling, to say the very least.
All me to put some realism to yesterday.
The International Break
The Rapids acquired some studs in the offseason, meaning that during international duty, their national teams would call them up. That's what happened here. Shkelzen Gashi, Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, Marco Pappa, and Mekeil Williams were all away. Granted, the only starters away were Gashi and Howard, but Pappa started last game when Marlon Hairston was out. With Jones out, Gashi is the motor that keeps the Rapids engine running now.
In for these absentees were Zac MacMath who played his first game since the end of June, Sebastian LeToux who's had a good career but is still new to the Rapids, and Dominique Badji who has great speed but struggles with finishing. With the parity that exists in MLS these days, having just one or two key players out of the starting lineup is troubling. We had three gone.
"But, but," you may say, "We've been struggling even when all of our guys are on the pitch." True. But the last loss we had against Real Salt Lake was against a team that's now finding their stride as the Rapids are struggling to regain their form.
But back at this: I detest MLS' decision for not observing the international break. But that's the hand every team is dealt. FC Dallas found a way to win. LA Galaxy beat an atrocious Columbus Crew team. The Rapids have a team of professionals who, no matter how fans like me whine about the international break and the purging of our best players during a stretch run, need to find a way to get it done, especially against a struggling Revs team that hadn't scored a goal in the four previous games.
Will the Plane Come Out for Pablo Now?
I was so hoping that the plane that graced the friendly skies would stay in its hangar until another appropriate time. But if the Rapids fail to pick up substantial results over the next few weeks, I fear we'll be seeing it the last week of the season.
Planes aside. The question at the beginning of the season is this, "Is Pablo Mastroeni's coaching improving, or did they just obtain better players to mask his inexperience?" I like Mastroeni. I love his passion on the sidelines, even if sometimes it's a bit over the top. I love his willingness to learn and grow and improve his coaching.
Honestly, this reminds me a bit of the Buddy Ryan Philadelphia Eagles teams in the late 1980s. Ryan was a defensive coach who basically told Randall Cunningham, "Don't worry about all that film. Just run as soon as you see daylight." Mastroeni is a defensive-minded coach who played a truckload of games on the defensive end. His offensive tactical acumen needed work.
Credit the Rapids for bringing in veteran players, coaches, and using other aspects to help compensate. Credit the Rapids for bringing in Howard (although I do wonder if Howard did break up the chemistry and form of the Rapids). The Rapids Front Office has shown that they are willing to bring in players to help bring a winner--and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise.
But coaching over the course of a 34-game season will expose strengths and weakness along the way--and will show what type of adjustments the staff will make. The more experience one has in coaching, the more tools they have in the toolbox from which they may take and implement.
So Was the First Half of the Season a Fluke?
No, I don't believe it was. The talent is still there. The Rapids are still 11-5-10 in third place in the West. We're going through a slump, and that slump will all be forgotten if we go into FC Frisco and get three points. We'll be at full strength. Do I believe the Rapids will win at Frisco? Realistically, I have serious doubts. With Gashi and Hairston back in the lineup (yes, I believe Hairston's pace makes a difference), we will see the difference.
Using the word 'fluke' is premature. That word comes out now because many see the season slipping away. They see that if Real Salt Lake win, the Galaxy win, and Sporting Kansas City win, we could well be in 4th with SKC on our heels. In case you hadn't notice, ladies and gentlemen, that is a packed Western Conference from 2nd through 7th place (Dallas now has an eight point cushion--hmm, that international break didn't affect them much, did it?).
In the words of Lou Saban, "You gotta get it done!" Please, Rapids. Let's get it done!